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Notable Temples of Varansi

Gurudham Temple

Rana P.B. Singh

The temple as cosmogram is clearly exemplified by Gurudham temple where symbolism of space, cosmo-magical form and body forms a web of Tantric mandala. This was built in CE 1814 by Raji Jai Narayan Ghoshal of Khedderpur (Bengal). The temple compound covers an area of 4.86 ha. The seven body‑sheaths (chakras) are fully represented in its basic spatial plan (see Figs. 7.7, and 7.8). In this temple, 4 microcosmic view of the seven most holy centres (puris) of India, and stages of meditation are spatially represented. Similar temples in India are at Bansbaria (Hamsesh­vari), near Chidambaram (Satya Jnana) and Prayaga/ Allahabad (Hamsa Tirtha in Jhunsi).

The temple is perceived as the preserver of light, reflecting the highest state of Guru and the ways of meditation. The basic structure is octagonal in form, containing a gate symbolising seven of the most holy sites bestowing salvation (puris), and the last one, the gate of Guru himself. These eight gates also refer to eight directions. Further, a sense of divine and mystic belief is also imposed like Shaivism (Avanti, Kashi), Vaishnavism (Ayodhya, Mathura, Puri), and both together (Kanchi), and Shakta/ Tantric (Maya/ Haridvar). These three groups can be identified with three schools of Hinduism. The Guru is separate from them, as he is the superb integration of these. With his guidance, one can attain that state of divine bliss. Moreover, number eight can be compared with various divine forms, like eight Bhairavas, eight Devis, eight Chandis, etc.

In the inner sanctum of the temple, on a thousand‑petal lotus, Guru’s icon is established along with the icon of his divine energy: both are made of mixture of eight metals (ashta dhatu). The lotus expresses a twofold symbolism of exoteric and esoteric. It symbolises a symmetrical and spatial emanation of ‘the one’, like the root‑word, Om. The lotus, in the widest sense, denotes creation generated from the primordial seed of the cosmic waters; the Taittiriya Samhita (Sv.1, 3c) says that “the lotus is the earth itself on those same waters.” According to another text, the lotus is the symbol of the plane of spiritual unity, revealing itself in the centre of the mysterious space (akasha) in the depth of the heart (Chandogya Upanishad, 7.3.1).

The conception of Guru in this temple is a symbol of Brahman, a Supreme One, who has at once a manifested and a non‑manifested aspect. In one way, He encompasses the whole universe, and in other way reflects the concept of pantheism: the One differentiates into Many, and in their togetherness the Many constitute a Whole (Rudhyar, 1983: 31‑32). Says Rudhyar (ibid.: 43): “Wholeness is in every whole, but it also is in what are inadequately called the ‘parts’ of a whole.” In fact, “there are no parts, only wholes – a hierarchy of wholes – that is, of organised fields of activity and consciousness having a limited span of existence” (ibid.).

All details of its construction like measurement of cubicles, veranda and dome, number of stairs and height and pictures inscribed on its eight gates, define one or more symbolic or archetypal expressions. Following the analogy that “temple in itself is a body”, the plexus system of kundalini, as described in the Yoga system, can be compared to the Gurudham temple. Each spot from lower to higher (seven layers) is symbolised by lotus petals, i.e., 4, 6, 10, 12, 16, 2 and 1000. A meditator has to follow the system in this sequence with the aim of reaching the highest state. Only then can he receive blessing from the Guru through touching his feet, as shown in the spatial plan of the temple (Fig. 7.8).

The condition of the temple was very bad, mostly due to negligence, illegal occupancy of open space, and encroachment by the nearby settlers and colonisers; and it was soon at the verge of being out of the scene from the cityscape, but with the efforts of the State Archaeology division of Uttar Pradesh, renovated and repaired work started in 2013 and completed in 2016.


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